Van den handel zou hij zingen': Nederlandse koophandelsgedichten 1770-1830

Translated title of the contribution: His song would be of trade, and of trade he sang'. Dutch poems on trade 1770-1830

Gert Jan Johannes, Inger Leemans*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic, the mercantile nation par excellence, poets often devoted some laudatory stanzas to trade and commerce, to Amsterdam as 'the merchants' capital' or to individual merchants and their virtues. It is only from the second half of the eighteenth century onwards, however, that we find poems that take trade and commerce as their central theme. This article analyses around twelve of these poems dating from the last decades of the eighteenth and the first decades of the nineteenth century. These sometimes exceptionally long works sing the praise of trade as a historical phenomenon, dwelling on developments from primordial times up to their own age. In the nineteenth-century poems, trade even develops into a divine power, the primum movens and driving force in the history of human civilization. Two central themes of Enlightenment economics gain prominence here: the Universal Economy Doctrine and the idea of doux commerce. While it has often been stated that the Dutch were hardly interested in economics before the end of the nineteenth century, these poems demonstrate that, whereas purely academic discourse on economy was scarce indeed, contemporary international ideas on economy were in fact widespread in the Netherlands. In a popularized and poetic guise they could count on the lively interest of many.

Translated title of the contributionHis song would be of trade, and of trade he sang'. Dutch poems on trade 1770-1830
Original languageDutch
Pages (from-to)1-33
Number of pages33
JournalDe Negentiende Eeuw
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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